Genre conventions have their advantages, but sometimes the biggest advantage of all comes from breaking them. Marah hails from Philadelphia, a refreshing fact in and of itself, as the Eastern Seaboard has been lax on the band front in recent years. But the group's music, and the obvious fun it has playing it, is what's so special. Marah's 1998 debut was memorably titled Let's Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight, and the music reflected a similarly purposeful spirit: sloppy roots rock 'n' roll played with passion, enough to draw comparisons to both the Stones and The Replacements. Kids In Philly, however, is the great leap forward that some sensed was coming. Signed by Steve Earle and given a bigger budget, Marah gleefully rifles through music's most magnificent moments, grafting the best bits of the past 40 years of pop, rock, and soul onto its freewheeling songs. "Faraway You" is a funky banjo rave-up with a great rubbery bass line, paying respect to the Mummer tradition of Philly. "It's Only Money, Tyrone" and "My Heart Is The Bums On The Street" are sublimely simple Springsteen tributes, the latter played over a rhythm bed taken right from the Motown songbook. "The Catfisherman" is straight-up ZZ Top, "Barstool Boys" is in the vein of The 'Mats' best ballads, and the wonderful "Round Eye Blues" is Phil Spector all the way. But Marah's most impressive asset—discounting perfectly ragged singer Dave Bielanko—may be its sense of economy. It only takes little more than half an hour for Marah to bound through music history, yet its brevity is part of its charm: By the time Kids In Philly is finished, you should be more than ready to play it again, a quality the disc has over most of its peers.

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